Blocked ears? 7 things you need to know about Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD)

At some stage in their lives, everyone has experienced ETD to a degree from increasing pressure, particularly when flying. Some may experience this with allergies, a sinus infection or a cold. Here is our guide to everything you need to know about ETD.

1. What is Eustacian Tube Dysfunction (ETD)?

This is the term used when the tube from your ear to the back of your throat is unable to equalise pressure.

When pressure builds up in the middle of your ear, it can cause hearing difficulties, blocked ears and even pain.


2. Why do my ears pop and sometimes crackle?

This is the effect of your eustachian tubes equalising the pressure. Most of the time we are unaware of this but during flights or even going up a hill, the sudden change of pressure will make this clearing more noticeable.


3. I have constantly blocked ears and pain, what is happening?

If your ears are constantly blocked and painful, you should visit your GP so that they can examine you to ascertain whether you need referring on to an ENT clinic.

An ENT consultant will test your hearing including a Tympanometry which measures the pressure your ear is at. They will also check your eustachian tubes with a fibre optic camera that is painlessly passed up your nose.

In some cases they may feel that surgery is an option to stop this becoming a chronic problem.


4. What causes Eustacian tube blockage?

Blockages can be caused by swelling or a build-up of mucus in the eustachian tubes.

There is a whole range of conditions that can cause this. If it is an ongoing problem, you need to be referred to an ENT clinic.


5. I often have blocked ears, what should I avoid?

Avoid diving during blocked episodes as your ears’ inability to equalise in this situation could lead to a perforated ear drum.

Your GP or ENT will be able to advise you on this and look at your ENT system to see if there is an underlying condition that may be causing these symptoms.


 6. Why do my Eustacian Tubes get blocked and don’t equalise?

This block can be temporary if associated with a cold or change in pressure and can normally be remedied by your local pharmacy and steam.


7. How can I prevent blocked ears?

Like all things, prevention is better than cure. Some simple things can be done for people prone to this problem especially during a flight.

When travelling, use “Earplanes” which are single use earplugs that buffer the pressure changes.

By chewing gum or eating a sweet, you’re changing pressures in the mouth and moving the muscles which in turn activates the eustachian tube.

Nasal decongestant spray can help by using it half an hour before flying. You can also try to self-inflate the tubes by holding your nose and gently blowing, then releasing.

We offer a wide range of procedures to treat ear conditions. It’s easy to make an appointment; ask your GP or give us a call on 01580 230661

Published on 13 January 2020